One of the most vexing problems facing punters is to decide how much betting their pockets can stand. To put it another way: can you afford to bet as much as you are betting?

Or, is your betting approach affected by your worries over your financial position? You have probably all heard of the term 'scared money' and it applies directly to punters betting with money they can ill-afford to lose.

The psychological aspect of betting is never more clearly emphasised than in this area of 'how much can I bet?' Perhaps that should be changed slightly to 'how much can I SAFELY bet?'.

My experience in the racing game is that the average punter's judgement will fly out of the window when too much pressure is applied. But it's a sad fact that too many punters put themselves under financial pressure. They might spend the rent money, or simply get behind on the day and then begin spraying desperate bets all over the place.

What we end up with, then, are (a) badly thought-out bets, and (b) weak, haphazard betting habits. This makes up a potentially fatal financial recipe.

How do you avoid this pitfall?

Basically, it's easy. You control your betting, you have a special bank set aside, and you don't give in to the temptation to bet more than your bank allows. It's a psychological game that you need to master.

Why do most professionals make a nice living from betting? They bet with good sense, they seek value and they are careful about money management. They wait patiently, in many cases, for what they consider to be the right bets.

Other professionals will bet on every race, but even when they do they keep their betting under full control. This is what the amateur punter must do as well.

Is there a recipe for success in this regard? What questions must you answer in your mind before embarking on your betting? There are some valid points to consider.

  1. How much money can you comfortably afford to lose?
  2. How many bets do you want to make?
  3. Will you stick to a carefully drawn-up plan of betting?
  4. Are you prepared to set aside a special bank and apply a controlled staking approach?
  5. Do you have family support for your betting? If not, why not?
  6. Can you handle a long losing run?

These are six questions which will, for a start, test your honesty.

It's essential that you be honest with yourself. If you have general financial problems, it's probably better if you don't bet at all ... or, if you must, bet only in small amounts, just enough to assuage your appetite for the punt.

Deciding how you want to bet is another key issue. Too many bets can mean a constant rise and fall in your fortunes, too few bets will cause frustration. You have to find the middle ground if you're to keep your mind clear, and if you're to remain free of stress.

A friend of mine has made a deep study of the psychological aspects of betting and losing. In interviews with dozens of failed punters, he found one constant thread: failure under pressure, with the pressure caused by losing more than they could afford.

The lesson, then, is clear enough. Play things well within your financial range; set a profit goal that is realistic; if you continue to lose then re-appraise your entire betting approach again. If one approach doesn't work over a fair period of time, you must start to seriously question your methods.

NEXT MONTH: Ten well-known experts from around the world give you their favourite piece of betting advice, especially on the psychological side of the game.

Click here to read Part 4.
Click here to read Part 5.
Click here to read Part 1.
Click here to read Part 2.

By Richard Hartley Jnr